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Speech of the President of the Czech Republic at the state dinner in Ireland

English Pages, 12. 11. 2008

President, Mr McAleese, distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to be able to use this occasion this evening to thank you for the invitation to your beautiful country and for the very cordial welcome extended here to our delegation, to my wife and myself.

I am visiting Ireland for the first time as President of the Czech Republic, but it is not my first visit to your country. I was here officially already in 1996, as the then prime minister of my country. Although visits by representatives of the State are short and, as a rule, focused on political and economic topics and do not offer much opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge of the country, I have got to know the Republic of Ireland as a country that is relatively geographically distant on our continent, yet also very close to the Czech Republic. A country whose inhabitants have built and preserved splendid prehistoric monuments such as Newgrange, which I had the chance to visit 12 years ago, a country which at the beginning of the Middle Ages became a unique centre of Christian civilisation, a country which gave world culture personalities such as Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.  

Ireland, like my own country, had lived for several centuries under the rule of a powerful neighbour and was forced to lead a long struggle for its freedom and independence. I believe the similar historical experience helps us to understand one another well.

At present, our relations are expanding significantly. Both our countries are members of the European Union and are successfully utilising the opportunities offered by European integration. The Republic of Ireland was one of the first countries to open its labour market to the citizens of the new member states of the European Union including the Czech Republic. I would like to thank you for that. It has opened an opportunity to several thousand of my fellow citizens to get to know your country, to acquire new job experience and improve their language skills. I am happy that trade exchange and investment, too, are recording a dynamic development. 

We are also linked by our interest in finding the right direction for the further development of the European Union. It is not surprising that the citizens of countries like Ireland or the Czech Republic, with their historical experience, are not indifferent to whether we are headed towards a Union that is democratic, respectful of the interests, traditions and priorities of its member states, or whether we are to be drawn away from the democratic ideals on which the modern statehood of both our countries rests. That is why we respect the decision made by your citizens in the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. It is unacceptable in our view to ignore their vote or to try to change it by external pressure. I think it is a grave mistake to artificially accelerate the integration of Europe behind the backs of the citizens of the member states or even against their will. This is particularly true in the difficult period we are facing due to the current financial crisis.

On January 1, the Czech Republic will assume the responsibility of the Presidency of the European Union. This will be yet another opportunity for intensive dialogue between our countries; I believe that our presidency will be as successful as the Irish presidency was in 2004.

President, allow me to raise my glass and propose a toast to friendship between our countries, to the happy future of your country and to your health and the health of your family.

Václav Klaus, State Dinner, Áras an Uachtaráin, Dublin, Ireland, 10. November 2008


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